Susanna Clarke’s 2004 debut novel, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, remains the only book ever to both be longlisted for the Booker Prize for literary fiction and to win the Hugo Award for fantasy. Her new book, Piranesi, similarly straddles these two genres. The titular character lives in a seemingly limitless series of hallways filled with beautiful classical statues and subject to changing tides that wash up the stairs. Piranesi is marooned, alone except for one other person he occasionally sees, but is content in his loneliness. Soon enough, Piranesi begins to discover a sinister explanation for his circumstances. But given the fulfillment he has found in his loneliness, the unfolding mystery forces the reader to ask if Piranesi would be better off ignorant. For fantasy readers often eager to get lost in mystical worlds and escape the complications of real life, Piranesi’s predicament deeply resonates.
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